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COVID-19 testing, quarantine no longer required for local travelers

MJ Blancaflor

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Coronavirus testing will no longer be required for local travelers unless the local government unit of their destination will identify it as among pre-requisites for travel, Malacañang announced Saturday.

Domestic tourists may also opt to skip a 14-day quarantine unless they exhibit symptoms upon arrival, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said.

A travel authority and health certificates from the Joint Task Force Covid-19 Shield are also not required, he added.

The easing of travel protocols came as the government seeks to boost domestic tourism to generate more jobs and spur economic growth, thus resuscitating the pandemic-battered economy.

Despite the new rules, Roque said authorities should continue to “strictly implement” the minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and the wearing of masks and face shields across all settings.

The official also announced that all ports and terminals should have a referral system where symptomatic travelers will be transferred to quarantine or isolation facilities.

“Clinical and exposure assessment shall be strictly implemented in all ports of entry and exit while health assessment of passengers, supervised by medical doctors, shall be mandatory upon entry in the port or terminal and exit at point of destination,” Roque said.

Buses in Metro Manila bound for the provinces, on the other hand, are required to use the Integrated Terminal Exchange as the central hub for transportation.

Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology’s Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System will be institutionalized as a “one-stop-shop application” for travelers, Roque said.

The StaySafe.ph System will be utilized as the primary contact tracing system nationwide, and other apps must be integrated into it, said Roque.

The new protocols were crafted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and approved by members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases during their recent meeting, he said.

The Department of Tourism has long been calling for a “uniform” set of protocols to make travel accessible for potential tourists and to revive the industry, which is among the major sectors that suffered badly from government-imposed lockdowns due to the health crisis.

About P190 billion in revenue was lost from the tourism industry from March to July last year at the height of strict quarantine measures, while some 5 million workers have either lost their jobs or suffered from salary cuts.

The government has yet to determine the exact tourism industry loss in 2020.

In 2019, tourism racked 12.7 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product as the country recorded 8.26 million international tourist arrivals and 110 million domestic tourist arrivals.

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